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Corruption Still Incurable?

Corruption is the enemy of development and good governance and we should seek systemic changes to deal with the issue” is what President Pratibha Patil urged the Government and Opposition in her Republic Day speech.

Though corruption is not a unique Indian phenomenon, it is all-pervasive. Recently it becomes the most serious problem of the country. A series of scandals, scams like the Adarsh Society building scam, 2G Spectrum allocation scandal, Delhi Commonwealth Games Expenditure etc have been exposed. Corruption has scaled to unimaginable heights that these corruption scandals exposed were ‘unprecedented in terms of scale, depth and hideousness. The amount involved in the Bofors scam was only Rs 63/- crores. But the siphoning off of money in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games is about Rs 17,000/- crores and that of 2G Spectrum scam is Rs 1,76,000/- crores. It is the greed of the people who are involved in such particles. Liberalization has also led to mega corruption. After liberalization politicians can make money only by mega corruption, which can come only through policymaking. Liberalization brought the dominance of capital market. Earlier corruption deals were necessarily under the table and there was always a sense of shame attached to it. But with liberalization and corruption entering the very areas of policymaking, this character of underhand dealing and sense of shame have completely disappeared. In fact, corruption has become the acceptable thing with the politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. It is not only the opportunity but the demand for corruption has risen. Obviously, the people who bribe also have the capacity to give such large amount. Consequently, they will have to suck it out of somebody and ultimately, the adverse effect is on the common man.

It is said that corruption depends on three factors: (i) value cherished by people at the individual level; (ii) value cherished by our society and (iii) the system of governance. We have seen that even in the most corrupt Government department there are honest people. They work sincerely and do their duty properly without any favoritism, nepotism etc. How do you explain this phenomenon? It is the result of an individual’s value. Will it not be silly to describe such persons as outdated? The former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam opined that parents, school teachers should cherish such values in the initial years of a person’s life. This is a true vision of Mr. Kalam.

Society value depends on what the leaders in society do. How many doctors, engineers, bureaucrats, businessmen and successful people in a society declare their real income and pay full income tax? If more than 50% of our economy today is black money, it means that all these people as a class are under-reporting their income and creating a parallel economy. Societal values have deteriorated. I once read a comment from a CVC official that if we display the photographs of corrupt people who have been found guilty and punished in every office, there would be no place on the wall for Mahatma Gandhi’s picture.

The third important aspect is that of the system of governance which decides the level of corruption. In any Indian market or city one can throw rubbish anywhere. But when the same person goes to Singapore, he will not throw rubbish on the roads because the system there will punish him immediately. What we have seen in our country is to design a system that encourages corruption. How many examples could we cite in our State where corrupt, guilty persons whether politicians or bureaucrats have been punished on corruption charges?

Every political party is against corruption when it is in the Opposition. Once it comes to power it has to play the same game. Corruption caters to the basic human tendency of greed. Today people want to grab power to make money or grab money to come to power. It is a vicious cycle and the question is how to break that cycle.

N Mittal, a former CVC (Central Vigilance Commissioner) listed 5 major factors that resulted in corruption in India. They were (i) Scarcity of goods and services; (ii) red-tape and complicated rules; (iii) lack of transparency in decision making; (iv) legal cushion for the corrupt under the principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty and (v) tribalism among the corrupt who protect each other.

Afterward he added another 5 elements i.e., politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, NGOs and criminals. Political corruption leads to bureaucratic corruption and business corruption. The NGOs are a global phenomenon by which a lot of money comes to them. For whatever money they get from the Ministry, they usually had to pay a bribe. The growth of terrorism or Naxalites also related to corruption.

Economic forces too lead to corruption. Given the present rate of inflation, the ordinary Indian—a fixed salaried man—finds it quite impossible to maintain his family with his sub-marginal income and saves a bit from it. In a growing environment of consumerism, almost everyone wants a little more than what they earn. Therefore, side money is made by public servants for doing their public duty a little more quickly or to favor one person over another and is blatantly used for illegal ends. In the State like Manipur, bribery has reached such a stage that any officials will not proceed the file unless they are given bribe. The public do hardly object it and instead give bribe to favor his file over the other. For entering to the Government job also people have started openly talking about the rate of bribe package and it does no more seem to be a shameful act. Besides this, it indicates one’s muscle and money power it has made the educational qualification a secondary thing for seeking a government job. Should one have to earn money along with his educational qualification to get a Government job? At this point too should we console ourselves with the famous Darwin’s law for “the survival of the fittest”?

Educational system is also infested with corrupt officials and administrators who make a mockery of the sanctity of the hallowed precincts of educational institutions to make a fast buck. Without giving hefty donation, it is tough, perhaps impossible, to get admission in many a good educational institutes in the country. At the same time, employment of teachers also does not meet the minimum qualification which consequently drags down the standard of education. This is the most shocking part of education and its future.

There are institutions to fight corruption. The judiciary is one. However slow it may be, it has taken a number of measures to fight corruption. The entire political class shows that it is afraid to face transparency. Politicians have lost their credibility. They cannot fight corruption because they thrive on it. A great mystery of our country and democracy is that people do not punish them by not returning them to power the next time. They instead continue to vote for these politicians ignoring their stained record of blatantly misusing public money. Moreover, in spite of so much wealth declared by politicians in their election affidavits, agencies such as the Income Tax Department or the Enforcement Directorate watch silently. Has any head of the Central Board of Direct taxes, Customs, Excise or the Enforcement Directorate asked how a politician earns his/her wealth double or triple time in the next 5 years? The disproportionate assets of politicians and public servants should be checked properly because most of it comes from illegal means like corruption.

A concrete special law with its serious implementation to prevent corruption is required. Efficient act of judiciary, Election Commission (at the time of election), CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) and CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) have to play important roles to control over corrupt activities in the country. With the vast size of population and poor economic infrastructure corruption creeps on to jump to a height where it becomes difficult to control. A serious thinking and system reform is required when the law making and law enforcing forces are themselves corrupt. The country demands good, sincere leaders, bureaucrats, judiciary to save the people from this dreadful habit of corruption. People should have the mental preparation to stop bribing for some personal gains. Most of our mindset has been corrupt; therefore a mental preparation is must for preventing corruption. It is time for us to cherish our value at individual and society level, along with good system of governance for fighting against corruption.

*The article is written by Dr David Elangbam.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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